Valparaiso (12-7, 5-2 Horizon)
Game #20: Thursday, Jan. 19 - 7 p.m.
at Loyola (5-12, 0-7 Horizon)
Gentile Arena (4,486) - Chicago, Ill.
Next Up in Crusader Basketball: Winners of four of its last five games, Valparaiso makes the first of two quick trips to the Windy City on Thursday evening as the Crusaders prepare to take on Loyola. Valpo enters the weekend tied for second place in the Horizon League standings, just one game out of first.
Last Time Out: Valparaiso shot 60% from the floor on Sunday afternoon, including a blistering 21-of-28 from inside the arc, and Kevin Van Wijk matched his career high for the second straight game with 23 points as the Crusaders downed Horizon League co-leader Cleveland State 72-66 at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Van Wijk got plenty of help offensively, as for the second straight game, four Crusaders finished in double figures in the scoring column. Van Wijk was named the Horizon League Player of the Week on Monday.
Following the Crusaders: Every game this season will be available on the Valpo Sports Radio Network, with Thursday's game broadcast live on WAKE (1500 AM, Valparaiso), WEFM (95.9 FM, Michigan City) and WJOB (1230 AM, Hammond). Todd Ickow is back for his 20th season on play-by-play, while Keaton Gillogly will join him on color commentary Thursday. The game can also be seen locally on Lakeshore Public Television. As always with every league game, there will be a live free video webcast through the Horizon League Network as well. Links to the live audio and video webcasts, as well as a link to live statistics, will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com.
Head Coach Bryce Drew: Bryce Drew made his head coaching debut at Arizona on Nov. 7, as he was named the 21st head coach in the history of the Valparaiso men’s basketball program on May 17, 2011. Just the fourth new head coach to grace the Crusader sidelines in the last 31 years, Drew had spent the last six seasons as a member of the Crusader coaching staff before earning the head position. He famously hit the game-winning shot against Ole Miss for Valpo in the first round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament to cap an illustrious Crusader career, before going on to a seven-year professional career, six of which were spent in the NBA.
Series Notes: Loyola holds a sizable 33-12 lead in the all-time series against the Crusaders, but the two schools have split eight contests since Valpo joined the Horizon League prior to the 2007-2008 season. The Crusaders had actually won four straight in the series before the last meeting, which was a 68-48 win for the Ramblers at the ARC on Feb. 24, 2011.
The Road Ahead: Valparaiso continues its four-game road trip this Saturday, as the Crusaders make their second short trip to Chicago in three days to face off against UIC. Then, next weekend brings the Green Bay (Jan. 26) and Milwaukee (Jan. 28) road trip for Valpo, just the second time in the Crusaders’ five years in the league that the Wisconsin road trip has not been split up.
Scouting Loyola: The Ramblers enter this week as the only team without a win in Horizon League play, owning a 5-12 overall record and an 0-7 mark in league action. Only two of Loyola’s first seven league games have been at home, however. The Ramblers are led by the frontcourt duo of Ben Averkamp and Walt Gibler. Averkamp averages team highs of 14.9 ppg and 6.9 rpg, while Gibler is right behind him with marks of 14.6 ppg and 6.8 rpg. Gibler is also a 55.3% shooter from the floor.
Four Out Of Five: After a long stretch of alternating results ended with back-to-back losses to IUPUI and Milwaukee, dropping Valpo to 8-6 and 1-1 in Horizon League play, the Crusaders have bounced back nicely, earning victories in four of their last five games, all league contests. Over that stretch, Valpo has scored at least 72 points in all four wins, and then last weekend stepped up defensively, combining to hold YSU and CSU to 39.7% shooting from the floor and 26 free throw attempts over the two games.
Knocking Down Shots: The Crusaders have been the Horizon League’s best shooting team from the field all season long, entering this week ranked among the top-30 squads nationally with a field goal percentage of 47.9%. But Sunday against Cleveland State, Valpo took its accuracy to the highest level it’s been this season. The Crusaders hit 27 of their 45 field goal attempts, knocking down 60% of their shots, their highest single-game percentage since connecting on 63.2% at Oakland last season.
Right Down to the Wire: Valpo returned to playing close basketball against Cleveland State, as the Vikings cut the Crusader lead to five in the final minute. Valpo's players have gained a lot of experience in how to play the final minutes of tight games, as six of Valpo’s last 10 games have been decided by six points or less. The Crusaders are 4-2 in the close games over that stretch, including wins in each of the last three. In fact, five of Valpo’s seven Horizon League games have been decided by a total of 19 points, including three one-possession games and another that went to overtime.
Proficiency Inside the Arc: Valparaiso’s success shooting from 2-point range has carried over into the 2011-2012 season. Last season, the Crusaders finished the year hitting 55.3% of their 2-point attempts, good for third nationally. So far this year, Valpo has connected at an even better clip from inside, knocking down 57.4% of its tries from inside the arc, leading the nation in the category. In fact, of Valpo’s nine scholarship players who have played the majority of the season, seven are hitting at least half of their 2-point attempts. In the win over Cleveland State, the Crusaders enjoyed their second best effort from inside the arc this season, connecting on 21-of-28 (75%) of their 2-pointers.
Valpo Tabbed Fifth in Preseason Poll: Valparaiso was picked to finish in fifth place in the Horizon League preseason poll conducted of the league’s coaches, sports information directors, and media members. The Crusaders tallied 255 points in the polling. Preseason league favorite Butler received 28 of the 50 first-place votes, while Detroit was picked second and received 19 first-place votes. Cleveland State (2 first-place votes) and Milwaukee (1 first-place vote) were chosen third and fourth ahead of the Crusaders, while Green Bay was just behind Valpo in sixth position. Youngstown State, Wright State, Loyola and UIC rounded out the polling in order.
A Look Back at 2010-2011: Valparaiso is coming off of its tenth postseason appearance in the last 16 seasons, having earned a berth into the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) last season. The Crusaders won 23 total games in 2010-2011, their greatest number of victories since the 2001-2002 season. Valpo also went 12-6 in Horizon League, posting its best record in league play since entering the HL and finishing just one game out of a share of the regular season title.
A Lot to Replace: The Crusaders had a lot of production to replace entering the 2011-2012 season, as they lost 60.5% of their scoring from last year’s squad, as well as more than 40% of their rebounding, assists and steals from a season ago. Cory Johnson (Second Team All-HL in 2009-2010; 14.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG), Howard Little (Valpo’s all-time leader in games played and eighth all-time in steals; 9.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG) and Michael Rogers (5.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG) all were graduating seniors on last year’s team, while Brandon Wood (Two-time All-HL honoree, First Team honoree in 2010-2011; 16.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.1 APG) graduated following his junior season of eligibility and transferred to Michigan State.
Home Court Advantage: This weekend returns the Crusaders to their home court, a place where they have excelled in the past. With 15 regular season home games slated for the ARC this year, Valparaiso has plenty of opportunities to utilize its home court advantage. With the win over Cleveland State on Sunday, the Crusaders are now 8-2 at home this year and now own a 254-112 (.694) all-time record at the ARC, including a 201-47 (.810) mark over the last 18-plus years at home. The Crusaders have also finished above .500 on their home court in each of the last 18 years.
High-Scoring Coaching Staff: Valparaiso boasts the third-highest scoring coaching staff in Division I basketball, as judged by points scored by the core four coaches at the Division I level. Head coach Bryce Drew scored 2,142 points at Valpo, while assistant coach Jake Diebler scored 826 points as a Crusader. Assistant coach Roger Powell Jr. added 1,178 points during his time at Illinois. Valpo’s total of 4,146 Division I points trails just Tennessee and Auburn.
Shots From the Heart: Both Valpo head coach Bryce Drew and assistant coach Roger Powell Jr. are participating in the 2nd Annual Shots From the Heart Tournament, in benefit of the Skip Prosser Foundation. The tournament was started last year to help create more awareness for the growing problem of heart disease, and consists of two 64-coach fields (one bracket of head coaches and one bracket of assistant coaches) participating in a free throw shooting contest. Drew was eliminated in the second round, while Powell has advanced to a third-round matchup against Wake Forest’s Rusty LaRue, having defeated Mike Blaine (Cornell) and James Whitford (Arizona).
A Lonely Banner: Each year’s senior class has banners hung inside the ARC during their senior season, but this season, there is just one men’s basketball banner hanging from the rafters. Walk-on guard Nick Shelton started the season as the lone member of this year’s senior class, as fellow senior walk-on Nathan Stegelmann was added to the roster in mid-November.
Calling All Captains: With no scholarship seniors on this year’s squad, Valpo looks to a trio of juniors to lead the way as the captains for the 2011-2012 team. Ryan Broekhoff, Erik Buggs and Matt Kenney will share the captaincy this season.
Short Bench: Just one game this season has Valpo been able to play all 10 scholarship athletes who are eligible, Dec. 17 against Oakland. Prior to that point, Ben Boggs had to sit out the first semester after transferring in from Virginia Tech, while Tommy Kurth has missed the last eight games due to illness. Valpo is still without scholarship players Bobby Capobianco, who must sit out the entire season after transferring to Valpo from Indiana, and Vashil Fernandez, who will be sitting out this season.
A Set Rotation: Head coach Bryce Drew seems to have settled into a regular eight-man rotation as the Crusaders hit the heart of Horizon League play. Over the last four games, all eight regulars have played at least 13 minutes in every game, while over the same stretch, only once (Broekhoff at Wright State) has any Crusader been asked to play more than 35 minutes.
Getting Defensive: Valpo surrendered just 38 points to Holy Cross on Nov. 14, holding the Saints to just 23.3% shooting from the floor. The 38 points allowed was the least by a Crusader squad since Valpo pulled out a 35-33 nailbiter against Green Bay on Jan. 21, 1984.
So Nice, He Does It Twice: Scoring 23 points to set a new career high in Friday’s win over Youngstown State wasn’t enough for junior Kevin Van Wijk, so the native of the Netherlands matched that point total just two days later to help lead Valpo to a win Sunday over Cleveland State. Van Wijk did most of his damage from the floor against the Vikings, setting a new career high for field goals made by going 10-for-13 in the win. The effort raised his season FG% to 62.2%, easily the best in the Horizon League and good for tenth nationally. Van Wijk, who was honored as the Horizon League Player of the Week for the second time this season, now has five 20+ scoring efforts on the year and has scored at least 15 points on 13 occasions, including six of the last seven games.
Model of Consistency: Junior Ryan Broekhoff has simply been one of the Horizon League’s best and most versatile players through the first two months of the season. Last time out against CSU, Broekhoff posted a typical night with 14 points and six rebounds, both numbers just under his season averages in the categories, along with a career-high tying assists. Broekhoff, who ranks among the team's top-three in all five major stats, has eight double-doubles on the season, easily pacing the Horizon League and more than the entire Valpo team has had in a single season since 2006-2007, when Urule Igbavboa registered 10 double-doubles. Broekhoff now sits third in scoring league-wide (15.2 ppg) and leads the league in rebounding (9.1 rpg), trying to become the first player since Youngstown State's Quin Humphrey (2005-2006) to lead the league in both categories in the same season.
More Scorers: Ten times this season now, the Crusaders have placed four players in double figures, going 8-2 in such games following Sunday’s win over Cleveland State. The impressive part in last weekend’s pair of wins is that it was a different duo on the two games who stepped up to join Broekhoff and Van Wijk in double figures. Against YSU, it was Will Bogan and Richie Edwards who scored at least 10 points apiece. But in Sunday’s win over the Vikings, it was a pair of players off the bench, as Jay Harris scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half, while Matt Kenney contributed 10 points in the winning effort. The Crusaders have now had a total of 64 double-digit scoring efforts in their 19 games this year, with six different players scoring 10 or more points in at least five games.